Because I am sick of all the hate mail I have been getting from my non-culinary posts and because I have to work, the weekly “Tuesday Cook Day” post is here!
Much to my displeasure, my client presented me this weekend with $250 worth of Italian cookbooks he recently purchased. For me. To use when cooking. For him.
Let me tell you my problem with cookbooks. Cookbooks annoy me. Not all cookbooks, mind you. As a vegetarian who does not eat or cook with eggs, onion (shallots, leeks, etc.), garlic or alcohol, most cookbooks are a total pain in the ass for me to even start looking at. While they may be good for ideas, they are not good for recipes. The only cookbooks which seem to suit me are Yamuna Devi’s, Kurma’s and Miriam Hospodar’s Heaven’s Gate Cookbook (alright…that’s my pet name for it.) None of which contain forbidden ingredients–thus when I seek their counsel it is a no brainer. Other stuff out there, including Veganomicon,
use stuff that I don’t.
So these cookbooks my client bought for my reference are all beautiful, vegetarian and Italian. Practically every recipe contains eggs and of course they all contain garlic. And the amount of alcohol used would be enough to get an entire bocci ball team plastered. My client, who is usually extremely picky about what his meals are made of, said that anything in those books would be fine. I looked through the books. The recipes all contained stuff my client has told me he does not want to eat: seitan, tofu, potatoes. Lightly cooked vegetables. Vegetables not smothered in tomato sauce.
And this is when I had the realization that my client just doesn’t know what he is talking about. My client does not know what it is he wants. Although he and I both know he doesn’t want Indian, unless it is palak paneer. But other than that, I feel I have his implicit sanction to cook whatever the hell I want. As long as it does not contain ghee or coconut, two things my client recently revealed he has had enough of.
Okay. so this is what I made:
Arugala with spicy vegan Italian sausage
vegan creamy broccoli cannellini soup
Peter Pank-style eggplant rollatini
The roasted vegetables were especially charming today because I bought yellow beets which added a little variety to the dish. Also, I threw some kalamata olives in just to emphasize the Mediterranean-ness of the veggie menagerie. The spinach rolls are a fave of mine–something I used to make often for breakfast when living in the Hare Krishna temple. The creaminess of the soup came from blended cannellini beans and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, celery and beet greens) as well as a half cup of nutritional yeast added to the seven cups of soup mix. After it cooked for a while, I added some more broccoli flowerets and the rest of the beans. It turned out very well–creamy and light.
As things would have it, I have been very into arugula lately. Just last week I made a similar dish for my family but in addition to the vegan sausage I added pieces of fresh paneer. Arugula has such a delicious flavor and cooks quickly; just wilt it in a pan with a little olive oil and a smidge of salt.
The eggplant rollatini turned out wonderfully. There are different ways you can prepare and serve it but I had something in my head which I was eager to execute. At 5 this morning I mixed a bread dough which was in a loaf pan baking by 7. The bread, which was all whole wheat flour, turned out exceptionally moist and light due to the addition of a little gluten flour.
After dropping my kids off at school I sliced the bread into thick pieces. Then I sliced an eggplant lengthwise into thin strips, brushed with olive oil and lightly cooked it in the cast iron skillet. After that I mixed equal parts ricotta with equal parts mozzarella (a little salt, dried parsley and a pinch of hing thrown in for good measure). I rolled the cheese mixture inside the eggplant strips, laid a few rolls on top of a thick piece of bread and then poured tomato sauce (crushed tomato, black pepper, hing, basil, a bit of turbinado and salt) on top–a sprinkle of a little mozzarella–and then in the oven to bake for 20 minutes.
I am really excited about the big slab of bread on the bottom which sops up the sauce. It was inspired by something really gross–the roast beef platter at the Peter Pank Diner. Actually, I think this dish is pretty common fare at all New Jersey Diners. The roast beef platter is essentially a thinly sliced cow on top of thick pieces of white bread smothered in gravy and served to you with a call already put into 911 for the heart attack you are about to have as your arteries clog with all the congealed animal fat on your plate. Nevertheless, the soppy bread was always a highlight and I wanted to use this rollatini moment to recreate a more heart-healthy animal friendly version of the experience.
And then there was banana bread. Because good banana bread is something everyone should have a chance to experience.